Eight Times Grief Made Me Feel Ugly, Mean, or Crazy

Society has created this narrative that idealizes the idea of grieving with grace.  You have probably seen it in the movies, in books, and subtly being reinforced when people compliment you on how strong you are and how you are handling things with such poise.  Poise . . . blech, I had a slight gag reflex just typing that.  But as annoying as this narrative is, I do understand why it emerged and persists. It is more comfortable to imagine grief as tidy and poised than ugly and messy and sometimes mean.

It isn’t easy to be open about all the messy stuff if you feel a pressure to only display that strong, graceful grief ideal.  You may feel like your grief should be a single tear running down your strong, poised face as you gaze off into the horizon. In reality, your grief feels more like a botchy, swollen, snotty, red-face over a pint of Ben and Jerry’s next to a growing mountain of dirty laundry.

So, just a little post to remind everyone: grief isn’t always strong, courageous, graceful, or poised.  Grief feelings are often messy, complicated, ugly and sometimes make you feel like you’re a bad person, or like you’re going crazy.  Don’t worry, you’re not a bad person.  You’re probably just a normal person dealing with the sometimes bad thoughts grief creates.

What are some of the most common grief-thoughts we hear that make grievers feel bad, guilty and not like themselves? Keep reading!  Because, like many other things in grief, these are better faced and coped with head on rather than brushed under the carpet.  So bring on the ugly.

Feeling #1: You are jealous of people you love (you might know this as, “I want to be happy that you’re happy, but instead I feel kind of bitter and resentful”.
bitter grief meme

Examples:  You’ve had a miscarriage and now your sister, college roommate, and co-worker are all pregnant.  Your mother/father/son/daughter died. It’s mother’s day/father’s day and everyone is *so* excited to spend it with their mother/father/son/daughter and they just can’t stop posting about it on social media.  Your friend’s daughter is graduating college, something your daughter never got to do.  You want to be happy,  but that bitterness and resentment keeps creeping in.

Feeling #2: You feel entitled, like life owes you something.

Examples: Just about anytime anything bad happens.  You get pulled over for speeding; doesn’t this cop know your husband just died?!?  You get reprimanded at work for being late twelve days in a row.  Uh, hello, your mom died? You bought a scratch off ticket and didn’t win.  You can’t help but think, come on universe, don’t you owe me that $10,000 jackpot for all the crap you’ve put me through??

Feeling #3: You don’t care about anything.

Example: Everything at work, every single day.

Feeling #4: You are having thoughts about suicide.

Examples: It is estimated that almost 4% of Americans have thought of suicide in the last year. When you look at those who have been through a death, especially a suicide death or traumatic death, the number of people who have thoughts  of suicide is even higher.  Unfortunately, many who think of suicide are scared or embarrassed to speak up or seek help.  If you are actively thinking of suicide please call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), call 911 or walk into your local ER.  If you are not actively thinking of suicide, but having generalized despair with thoughts that it will never get better, consider professional support from a therapist and remember: Hope is real. Help is real:

Feeling #5: You are angry.  SO. ANGRY.

Examples: You are angry at the person who died.  You’re are angry at the doctors for failing.  You are angry at your family for how they are handling things.  You are angry at people for asking how you are doing.  You are angry at people for not asking how you are doing.  You are angry at God for taking your loved one.  You are angry at yourself for not being more poised and graceful in your grief.  You get the idea.  We have a whole post about it here.angry gif

Feeling #6: You are drinking or smoking or smoking something else to cope. A lot.

Examples:  You may not have thought of yourself as a person who had a problem with substances, but when your occasional glass of wine turned into a bigger glass of wine turned into a nightly bottle of wine, you may gotten a little worried.  Drinking now and then doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad griever,  but you should read more about this phenomenon here and seek support if you know you need to cut back or are struggling to keep it in check.
grief wine amy schumer jezebel

Feeling #7: Your emotions feel totally out of control.

Examples: You can’t focus on anything. You are snapping at people. You are crying on the regular.  A trigger hits, a total meltdown follows, and you feel pretty sure you’re losing it.  Don’t panic, you’re probably not losing it. There is more to read about this here if you relate.

Feeling #8: You are judging all over other people, even people you care about.judging arrested development giphy

Examples: You’re barely keeping your head above the grief-water and your friends are busy talking to you about house hunting, stress at work and how the dry cleaner lost their favorite coat.  You can’t help but think they have absolutely no idea what is actually important in life.  Yes, your priorities often change after a loss, which isn’t always a bad thing.  But don’t panic, usually this settles out and you will probably be able to listen to friends vent about how hard life has been since the drive-thru Starbucks in their neighborhood closed. Eventually.

Bottom line is this, you think of yourself as a good person, a nice person, a reasonable person.  Then suddenly grief makes you feel crazy, erratic, selfish, judgemental and all sorts of other things that just aren’t you. You don’t want to talk about it because you feel like people would be horrified if they knew just how not strong and not poised and not graceful your grief really is.  But the reality is,  that’s grief.  Facing the ugly thoughts, talking about them, and acknowledging that none of them make you a bad person is important.  Many of these feelings pass on their own, but if they don’t there are lots of ways to get help.  If you want support but are having trouble finding a therapist or grief group in your area, email us and we are happy to point you in the right direction.

We know this list is only a handful of the feelings that can cause shame and embarrassment in grief.  Leave a comment to share others or to tell us what you think about the list.  As always, don’t forget to subscribe to get all our posts right to your inbox.

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October 20, 2017

34 responses on "Eight Times Grief Made Me Feel Ugly, Mean, or Crazy"

  1. My father was a sweet man who would bend over backwards to help anyone who asked. He helped a lot of people become wealthy though he never made much money himself. We were comfortable and had a loving family and didn’t need anything else. Then he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and we gave everything we had to get him through it, but he died of course. Then his insurance refused to acknowledge a continuation benefit he’d been paying for. Then we discovered he had taken out lines of credit years ago, incorrectly assuming his loss of life protection he was paying for would prevent us from having to deal with them. Then mom’s house flooded, and our heat pump broke and it can’t be fixed, and a payment went missing from our credit card and my goddamned deck collapsed. Yesterday I found myself screaming at God, like some kind of lunatic as I drove through the icy hell that is the city where I live toward the frozen, drowned wreck that used to be my childhood home. The brutal unfairness and cruelty of the world has just overwhelmed me. I keep wanting to pray that God take away my bitterness and my anger before I damn myself, but I don’t trust Him enough to talk to him anymore. I don’t want to make myself a target. We’ve been financially devastated. I’m barely capable of keeping my family afloat (I still hadn’t paid off my student loans when all this started, and now Canadian taxes have skyrocketed to the point that even as a professional, I can barely keep my own head above water, let alone my mother’s) – our prime minister has basically declared a war on physicians and the public hates us and thinks we’re all wealthy – and all we hear is more more more – work more hours, pay more taxes – it’s an endless treadmill of impossibility. I’m just waiting to find out what’s next. Do I have a stroke? Does my son get leukemia? Does the earth just open up and swallow us? I can’t take any more of this. I used to be happy. I used to be grateful and count my blessings. Now I wish I could just die and get it the fuck over with.

  2. My sister-in-law (who I am not close to and never really managed to get close to despite 14 years of marriage to her brother) lost her husband and 9 yo daughter to a drunk driver a block from their house. Her tragedy is horrific and it hit so close to home that I felt pretty scarred by it myself (though I have no claim to feel those feelings). I have tried to be supportive and let her feel whatever she wants to feel, encouraged her to speak her feelings no matter what they are, and tried to learn how to respond properly. I live across the country so this is all mostly via FB. I commented supportive messaged on all of her posts. I have read the articles she posted and tried to say the right thing, but not having a foundation to build on makes my responses and attempts feel false at best. It’s been 2 years since it happened, and I reshared a picture of their beautifully adorned caskets with the caption “So tragic. Beloved by SO many.” I thought I was honoring them by not forgetting them on this anniversary but it triggered a PTSD episode for her. I could not know that she would respond this way. I did not intend to hurt her. I didn’t know about this episode right away. All I saw was a comment that said “Seriously? How could you post this?!” This was a couple of hours after she commented on a memory post from 6 years ago where I almost lost my daughter to drowning. She said “Isn’t is nice when the worst doesn’t happen?” Seriously? How ugly. Sounds like she basically wishes her own NIECE had drowned because of what she has suffered. She hadn’t responded to my messages or texts at all in the last 2 years and now she was commenting on my posts. I privately messaged her an apology and told her that I’m sorry. I told her I didn’t intend to upset her, that I didn’t feel like I could ever do anything right. I asked her to not shame me publicly on my posts, and that if I bothered her as a person, we didn’t have to remain friends on Facebook. Some people don’t mesh. Minutes later, instead of responding to me privately, she publicly shamed me on her page in front of all of our shared family/friends with a lot of language. I cried for hours out of frustration! She had been posting about sensitivity and how to treat a grieving person for the last 2 years, but what about those of us who are trying? She ignored me for 2 years and then suddenly BAM! Figuratively slapped me on social media. I’m feeling incredibly angry at her, hurt, mad, isolated, and shamed. What’s worse is the family, who had to have KNOWN I didn’t mean harm, either remained silent on the issue or liked/loved her post and all the comments that continued to shame me and console her at my expense. I made a mistake, unknowingly, and I get publicly humiliated? I am TRYING to get past my hurt pride and bitter “What about my feelings?” and “Does no one matter but you?” feelings but it’s pretty difficult. If she were to privately communicate with me, work with me, I’m sure I would have been able to deal better, but the public shaming thing was pretty nasty and I am having a hard time getting past it. I feel like she is all of the above “grief made me feel ugly” and just waiting to pounce on anyone (or rather someone she’s already disposed to not care about like me) who missteps. I guess I’m looking for help. I want to get past my pride, but I was such an emotional wreck that I cried and raged for hours and then I unfriended her. Then my husband did as well to support me. I felt bad but justified, as I felt she was becoming toxic to my family. What I guess I’m looking for is a little understanding and a LOT of help to get past this and MAYBE, just maybe see a way to mend fences. Please don’t tell me “Get over it” or “You’re life doesn’t compare,” because OF COURSE it doesn’t, but does it invalidate my feelings? Doesn’t everyone have burdens to bear even if they haven’t suffered tragedy like this? Yes, grieving with poise is as irritating an expectation as being the perfect mother, but does that mean people should STOP striving for it?

  3. I don’t feel bad about being irritated with people for their stupid problems. They have absolutely no idea what real, serious problems are.

  4. Thank you so much for writing this article. I thought I was going crazy for sure. My Mom who was my best friend just passed a month ago and I have been all of these things that you described. I have been so angry and jealous toward people that still have their Mom and have felt so guilty about it. We were so close. She was so sick with cancer and my sisters didn’t help me do anything for her. They didn’t even spend time with her when she was dying. She loved them so much and they broke her heart even on her death bed. She asked for them everyday and cried over them not being there. She never made a difference in the way she loved us. She loved us all the same and always reached out to them. I just don’t feel like they loved her back. They since then have been walking around laughing and joking about everything and I am so heartbroken I can’t function. I have cried everyday since she died and I am so bitter toward my sisters. All they talk about is their life and their happiness and the only time they have called me is to find out when they would receive their share of her estate. They have always been selfish people but I thought they would come around and be there for her when she needed them most. One of my sisters is a Sociopath so there is no conscience.She is a great actress and can fake emotion when ever she wants to. She has a lot of people fooled except me and the people she has mistreated. She was so mean to my Mom when she was sick and yelled at her all the time. She lies about everything and can put on a show even at the funeral she got up and gave this speech about my Mom making her cookies and cocoa everyday after school to make up to her for divorcing my Dad. My Dad was an abusive alcoholic that beat my Mother every day. I applaud her for leaving him. She had three kids that didn’t need to grow up in that situation. My other sister is an alcoholic so that is her true love I guess. She told me she had no feelings at all toward my Mom. My Mom was a very sweet and very loving person who loved them in spite of their ways but I am struggling to want any kind of relationship with them. My husband and kids have been great and I am truly blessed to have them even though I have snapped at them a few times lately. I apologize afterward but I can’t really help myself sometimes. I know that grieving is a process and I have learned a lot from reading this and hearing other people’s stories. I know that I’m not alone in my feelings. Every irrational feeling I have had is part of the normal process of grieving.I like the idea of reaching out to others or maybe volunteering to help others especially with the holidays coming up. I think that would help me heal a little bit. I have been so focused on my feelings. I think I am ready to give a little bit of kindness to others. I think that would be a positive step in the right direction.

  5. When I lost my daughter, it felt like my whole life crumbled. The moment I saw her lifeless body, my whole life flashed before my eyes even as I was screaming and crying. Nothing has been the same since then. I wake up, go to work and come back but I feel that lifeless feeling that I saw in her. I see my son thriving and it fails to delight me. I feel angry and lost. I mourn for her and I mourn for the beautiful life that my family had and that is lost forever. As I was walking last week, I saw someone’s t- shirt read ‘ Welcome to the next episode’ . So is this what life is? I want to rewind and always be in my last episode with 2 beautiful kids, a happy home and oblivion to the cruelties of life.

  6. Thank you for writing this article. I too have most of these feelings, and feel guilty sometimes for being so angry and judgy and jealous . My 18 year old son was murdered 8 months ago. I often put on a ¨mask¨ when going out in public and so people think (and say): ¨she is coping so well.¨ Sigh. Honestly, how can we know how to do this, get through this, I just bear the pain and get through each day.

  7. Why can’t grief be out in the open? Society has come so far accepting or embracing sex outside of marriage, illegitimate babies, homosexuality, breast cancer, yet death and grieving are NOT openly talked, about. It is a private pain you can’t burden your close ones with.
    Yet everyone will face it unlike things listed above. I have felt so alone since my dad died, also have tremendous anger issues. Suicide always wavering in the shadow. Pain lets me forget emotional turmoil.

  8. Thanks for a great article. Let yourself grieve. It’ll happen in phases, in no particular order. You can try to rush it, but that just extends it. It’s also okay to have a little fun, every once in a while, too- Don’t feel guilty for going out of town for a busy weekend of fun where you DON’T focus on your lost loved one. Grieving is exhausting- don’t feel like a bad person for taking a break from it and focusing on YOUR HEALTH sometimes. You deserve to be happy. Work through the feelings of blame, guilt, and being cheated. Try to eventually get to a place where thinking of your loved one puts a smile on your face as you remember a time when they were happy. This process will change you forever. That’s okay. You’re not damaged- you’ve grown. If you’re feeling worthless, try helping out a friend in need, or a stranger. I started giving blood at the Red Cross quarterly when my Dad died. It makes me feel good to know that someone else’s parent or child might live longer, and it just takes an hour of my time, in and out. My friend lost her Dad, and I helped her clean out her father’s house. It made me feel good to help. I’m not feeling guilty- I’m feeling happy that I’ve grown less self-obsessed and that I can take pleasure out of helping others.

  9. YES – can related to half of the eight. For me I would add Feeling #9: Feeling abandoned. Two retired long time colleagues / friends (?) stopped staying in touch. Oh well. Hope both don’t have same experience if their spouses pass before them. Great article.

    • I agree.
      When my baby died right after birth I lost people I thought were my friends. I get that they didn’t know how to deal but neither did I! No one gives us a guidebook or training for that or losing someone so dear! 🙁

      • I’m sorry that people who should be there for you are not ! I understand that people don’t know what to do or say, but to totally abandon you after the death of your baby is really selfish. I’m sorry about your baby. All the best to you.

        • A loss like that is beyond what most people know. You know it. Intimately. People, family, community abandon other people going through such things. It always happens to those who sustain such catastrophic losses. One thing I’m sure trying to cope w/all my life is this fact.

  10. So accurate. Especially the feeling crazy part. Had I not sought the help of a grief counselor, I never would have known that feeling crazy is often part of grieving. Thank you for writing this.

  11. THANK YOU! Every time I let someone into my sad world looking for comfort they either redirect me away from my sad shitty feelings or outright judge them (my sister called my anger “twisted” after the sudden death of my brother 3 months ago). I don’t want to be told to feel different feelings! I want the permission to feel my current, ugly, uncomfortable feelings!

  12. Great article, as always. I know I’m not the same person I was before I lost my 28 yr old daughter, Laura, 14 months & 6 days ago?. How can we be? I find it hard to really care about anything, though I pretend to. I wonder is this how it will be for the rest of my life? Maybe pretending will bring me back to eventually caring again? Everything is colored by my loss of her. Thank you for these posts!

  13. I hate hearing about my co-workers or my sister’s kids. I have to force myself to listen, look happy and be happy for them. I can’t wait for them to go away. I hate being like this. It’s not who I used to be before my daughter was taken from me.

  14. My had a horrible, traumatic event happen to her in high school. She was the never the same. She was taken from me and I feel robbed. This was 7 years ago and I am still grieving.

  15. I thought this was an excellent article especially for people who don’t see this side of us. I related to a lot of these.

  16. I was angry at Mohammed Atta, the actual person who killed him. He never knew him and never even knew he KILLED him. He didn’t know ANY of the people he killed but did it anyway. It was so important to kill total strangers.
    It doesn’t matter that he killed himself within one second (while it took Eric and hundreds of their other victims at least 10 MINutes to die,) I was still angry at Mohammed Atta and became even more incensed after finding out he had a Master’s degree in Urban Planning. All his sisters were doctors (with Ph.D’s) and his dad was a lawyer. He wasn’t a “young impressionable terrorist.”
    Neither was Osama bin Laden, whom I was also angry at even though he sat from afar and watched everything happen. Like Charles Manson, another apparent waste of human skin.
    I haven’t been able to forgive them even for myself, as people claim of forgiveness. That you’re doing it for yourself. I don’t let the anger stop me from doing things but I have a hard time ‘forgiving’ someone who killed people they don’t know and don’t even know who they murdered in the first place. How do you forgive someone committing an act that random and that evil? That it doesn’t matter who they kill and they’ll go to their grave not knowing just as long as they kill total strangers?
    I have great difficulty doing it. I’m not that emotionally in tune with those that did it.
    That’s one of the ugly ways I feel.

    • Vicki, I have read all of your comments here and on Facebook since I found this website last year. You express yourself so well, and each time I read a comment from you my heart breaks. I could never imagine losing a loved one, especially a spouse, in such a horrific and public way…having to watch the murder over and over again…. I appreciate all of your comments as it reminds me that 9/11 was such a personal attack on all family and friends left behind and not just an attack on our country. You are the first and only person I’ve ever heard from who experienced the horror of that terrible day personally. Thank you for always being so open and honest with your feelings. Many hugs to you as you continue on this difficult journey of grief~

      • I don’t think my Reply button is working. Every single time I try to reply it sends me to the bottom of the page.
        I’ve never been able to watch repeated footage of the towers falling. Especially not the North Tower, until 2 days ago when I was watching a movie called Flight 93. My friend’s husband died on that one. He said the Lord’s Prayer before they tried to take back the plane, asking for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, and then dying in the crash 5 minutes later.
        I have no idea how what happened 5 minutes later was “God’s Will.” He asked for God’s Will to be done on earth and died in a terrorist act. I don’t understand it at all.
        The whole incident has made my “Faith” almost nonexistent. That’s another ugly thing that has happened to me, and one that most people refuse to tolerate. I left church because I’ve been unable to “trust God even when you don’t like what’s happening.”

        • I can feel your pain coming through your words and my heart truly hurts for you. Though we’ve never met you’ve been on my mind this week with September 11 approaching. Again, I can’t even imagine…and your friend’s husband too…. I totally get your questioning God’s will and feeling so angry at/with Him. My faith has certainly dwindled, and sometimes I feel like I’m barely clinging to it. I’ve also been unable to pray since losing my mom 1 1/2 years ago. I’m saddened to hear that others aren’t able to tolerate your lack of faith. I haven’t shared those feelings with my family or friends because I fear the same thing. This is the time when we need the most support! I’m glad you use this forum to share your feelings and hope it helps in your healing process and will allow you to find some peace. You and your friend will be on my mind and in my heart this weekend. The sickening and horrific things that happened that day hold more significance for me because of you. Many hugs to you Vicki ~ ❤️

    • No words Vicki, I’m so sorry for your loss. Hugs.

    • Vicki, Ive read many of your posts. I just wanted to send some hugs your way today.

  17. My momma was found dead in her home on Aug.15, 2014…
    She was dead 3-5 days before she was found… I dont even know what day she died on…
    Aug. 15 was put as her death date… I feel so guilty for not being there for her… My momma had cancer when I was 5 years old & I was told she would die then… I had her another 45 years… Im Very Greatful for the extra years but sometimes I think it would bave been easier losing her as a small child… I would have lost my momma… but U see she was my best friend growing up… so as a adult…
    I lost much more than just a mom… I have lost part of me… she taught me to be strong person & everything I need to know in my life except how to live without her

  18. I never thought of what all I was feeling since my moms death was probably, in fact, all related to my inability to keep grieving when and if I needed to. I kept thinking that it would end or it would get easier, and no one could tell me how or when, ideas I felt that if I had I could process everything better. Thank you for this article!!

    • I feel the same way after my Mom’s death. So angry when people tell me I should be grateful for all the years I had her, I don’t care! She was my best friend and she’s gone. I never let on to them, just nod and smile, and yes I feel crazy!

      • My mom died almost three years ago, she was my best friend as well. I have heard it all from ” oh, she lived a long life” to ” you should be grateful for all the years that you had with her” and “not everyone gets that kind of a relationship with their mother, be grateful “. I, like you don’t care because these are ‘canned remarks’ and really don’t mean anything, so yeah just nod and smile and say ” I’m fine” because that’s what they want to hear…..

        PS when my mom first died I really though I was going crazy, its a horrible feeling.

  19. My daughter passed 5 years ago, as well. Newly married, no babies. I’ll never be a grandma.
    A coworker always complains in the mist negative ways about how awful it is that her daughter and grandaughter live in her house.
    What would I give to have that problem! I smile through gritted teeth an tears.

    • You should tell her that you would love to have that problem. People tend to magnify their insignificant problems until they experience something truly devastating like the death of a loved one. In the past three years, I’ve lost a sister, my mother, and a beloved uncle. That has completely readjusted my thinking about what matters, and what does not.

  20. Best thing I have read about grief! Thank you!

  21. Exactly how I feel …a bubbling idiot that is a crying and going crazy after losing my daughter 5yrs ago my mom this past Dec and my grandpa this past April…it’s just not fair

    • As a child, I was taught to hush, no one wants to see you cry. Be strong, close it off. Thinking about it makes me want to scream. It is so wrong to not acknowledge the pain. Face whatever the bad is and own it. The pain never goes away, you don’t get over it, but you can learn to not let it consume the good of today. Remember you can always take it out later to cry, worry, share, or just kick it in the butt.

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